Do consumers see brand activism as genuine or simply pandering?
A survey from Piplsay finds 69 percent of Americans continue to expect brands to take a stand on social issues, but opinions appear mixed on how far they want brands to go.
The report delved into opinions about changes to logos and product names taken by a number of companies, including PepsiCo (Pearl Milling Company), Mars (Ben’s Original), Land O’Lakes, Hasbro (Potato Head), and Conagra (Mrs. Butterworth). The changes aligned with heightened sensitivity around bias and inclusivity, especially in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The survey basically explored the question: Is brand activism convincing enough to impact consumer choices and decisions, or is it merely pandering to the ongoing culture war?
On the pro-activism side, asked how they viewed the changes brands like Pepsico, P&G, Mars and Hasbro have made to their logos or product names to address social issues like racism and gender-neutrality, 49 percent viewed the changes positively. Only 17 percent viewed the changes negatively and 34 percent were neutral.
However, asked for their personal opinion about the growing trend of brand activism:
- Only 31 percent felt such actions can help bring real change;
- Roughly the same number (31 percent) felt brands are giving in/cashing in on the culture war;
- Seventeen percent felt such actions will not bring real change;
- Twenty-one percent were unsure what to think.
Asked how strongly they expect such brand actions now compare to the peak of the Black Lives Matter movement last year, 38 percent had higher expectations, nine percent, lower expectations; 31 percent, the same expectations; and 22 percent, no expectations.
Brand action on social stands has been on the rise in recent years with catalysts also including global warming and the #MeToo movement.
Other recent studies around brand activism include:
- A fall 2019 survey of marketers from World Media Group found alignment with social issues as one of the top three benefits of a content campaign, alongside brand engagement and changing perceptions;
- A survey of consumers taken last August by the PR firm Edelman found 77 percent saying it is “deeply important that companies respond to racial injustice to earn or keep their trust.”
- The rise of brand activism. Is it impactful? – Piplsay
- Systemic Racism: The Existential Challenge For Business – Edelman
- New Survey Suggests Brand Activism Is on the Rise – World Media Group
- Consumers will dub activist brands as ‘woke-washers’ if they cannot prove moral competency – Eurekalert
- Brands under pressure to make a stand on racism – Los Angeles Times
- Can a box of pancake mix be racist? – RetailWire
- Trader Joe’s says ‘never mind’ on private label name changes – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How can brands best judge when activism is appropriate versus excessive? Do you think that most brand activism today is seen by most consumers as genuine or just pandering?